Pool of Radiance II
Quick Hits
Category: Roleplaying
Publisher: SSI
Developer: StormFront Studios
Due: 2000
In A Nutshell
A follow-up to the 1988 release Pool of Radiance, Pool II features 3D characters, hand-rendered backgrounds, a completely interactive environment, and lots of RPG fun.
The Buzz
Pool of Radiance was the first Gold Box game, and one of the first computer roleplaying games to carry the TSR Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D;) license. The same guys who created the first game are working on a follow-up that will bring the Gold Box series into modern technology.

Short and stout, but packing a punch, Dwarves are fierce fighters.

Elves usually make good Rangers, as this maiden demonstrates by the bow on her back.

Halflings are commonly known as thieves. With very hairy feet.

Aside from sporting some scanty attire, this magic user will dazzle players with light-sourcing and particle effects in the game.

What would a fantasy RPG be without a human fighter?

The world will be comprised of hand-created backgrounds, starting with a sketch much like this one.

Toward the end of 1988, SSI released Pool of Radiance, the first computerized Advanced Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. The game launched a series that would later be called the Gold Box games (due to their gold wrapping), which were some of the most beloved computer RPGs ever created. Now, SSI revisits the Gold Box series by recreating them for the modern market, starting with the sequel to Pool of Radiance. Still taking place in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, another pool has been located in the extremely dangerous ruins of Myth Drannor.

What we saw at the Electronics Entertainment Expo was extremely early (even the name will probably change before final release), but equally promising. The game will be played from a third-person top-down perspective, similar to the most recent Forgotten Realms game, Baldur's Gate. However, in Pool of Radiance II, each of the characters are polygonal, 3D models with smooth-flowing animations. The backgrounds are pre-rendered and handcrafted, but the engine delivers a true feeling of depth as it accurately models the foreground and background.

Combat will work on a sort of phased real-time system. The game uses accurate AD&D; rules, so each character will attack according to their initiative. However, the player has a little bit of time to decide what action they will take and if they don't make a decision, the character will perform a default action. This will let the player control all their characters (four player-created characters and two more NPCs, making for a maximum party of six) while maintaining the excitement of combat.

What's really exciting is the interactive environment. Players can knock over tables, push around chairs, and even block doorways with chests to keep the baddies out while they rest and memorize spells. Although the particle and lighting effects weren't in the engine we saw, SSI promises some dazzling spell effects (from over 100 different spells) and use of lighting to create creepy dungeons.

Although the engine we saw was very early, the possibilities look great. Stormfront Studios, the development team working on the project, is comprised of many of the folks responsible for the original Pool of Radiance. When asked about what sort of support the game will have for multi-player, they hedged heavily, saying that they're thinking about a number of options. Being able to play cooperatively through the single-player game looks like a definite possibility, and it appears they're trying to come up with some other options for those who want to journey together. They also plan on utilizing voice communication for multi-player games.

The Gold Box series of RPGs will always rest well in every RPG fanatic's heart, and the news that SSI is resurrecting the line for the modern market is exciting. Although Interplay currently holds the license for AD&D; branded products, they've apparently reached an agreement with SSI to grant the use of a small portion of the Forgotten Realms setting. And while we're going on faith that a lot of what the developers mentioned will show up in the final version, you can bet we'll be keeping a close eye on its development between now and its projected Fall 2000 release.

Ed. Note: All art accompanying this preview is conceptual at this stage; the characters may look completely different in the final game.

-- Michael Wolf

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